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How to See Clearly Through Your Welding Helmet

The Voice: Hey, Kevin. What are you looking at?

Kevin Caron: I'm checking out my welding helmet. The other day I received an email from one of my YouTube video subscribers, a new welder, wondering why helmets come in different shades - either the old-fashioned kind that's just dark glass, or the newer auto-darkening helmets.

He states that, on his helmet, they keep changing the setting, and "if I leave it at the lightest setting, then I can see my work, but when you make it darker, you can't see your work; you can't see where you're going, can't see your seam - I'm blind," he says. "Why are there different shades and different tints?"

I thought that was a good question to explore on a welding safety video.

If you look down inside a helmet such as this one, you can see that this is a Lincoln Electric helmet. Don't tell anybody that I use Miller. But it just happened to be on sale.

Now, you see, this has got little push buttons here for the shade, the sensitivity (which is how light; how bright the light has to be before it changes tint), and then the delay, which is how quickly it does so. Does it go really fast? Does it go slow? Does it give you a second?

I like to run mine on a 10 shade and I run the sensitivity high, so it goes very quickly. And I run the delay on fast so there's no delay. I don't want to have to wait a minute. I want it to go now, as soon as it detects that light.

One of the things about sensitivity, especially for when I'm working here at this table inside the studio, where I've got those big doors in front of me - if those doors are open and I look up with my helmet on; it will go dark, because of the light outside. So, that's when you would change your sensitivity and reduce it so that you could look out there, but then also be able to look back down again.

If your helmet is flashing and you look like that, that might be why: Your sensitivity is wrong.

Let's go ahead and fire up the Miller welders. I've got my TIG welder and my MIG welder out. Let's fire them both up and we'll run them both at the same time so you can see the difference in the light. That will help explain why you sometimes you want it darker, sometimes lighter.

Let me get my gloves on.

The Voice: What about oxyacetylene?

Kevin Caron: Well, oxyacetylene . . . The Creature from the Black Lagoon!

These are oxyacetylene cutting and welding goggles. These are a different shade than what you would get in a welding helmet. Not quite as dark, but these are, of course, fixed. That's why they have the little flip-up on there; so you can see what you're doing, you can grind, and you can cut. You can get everything ready to go and then you just flip the little dark glasses down and then you can go ahead and do your work.

You can do the same thing with a welding helmet, if you just lighten up the shade. Take it from a 10 or 11. Take it down to a 9 so you can see with the torch - otherwise it would be too dark. That's what those are for.

I'll get my gloves on and show you a little light show. Here's the Miller Syncrowave TIG welder in one hand, and the Millermatic 251 in the other. Let me see if I can do both of these at the same time. (welding)

Could you see the difference in the light from one to the other? That's why you want different shades.

There's a problem that welders get on occasion. It's called "flash burn" to the retina. That's what happens when your helmet is not dark enough, or if you forget to put your helmet down (been there); or somebody's welding across the shop and you just happen to glance at that arc.

Next morning you'll get up, your eyes are all scratchy, they may be all red. That's flash burn. That's from the radiation and the brightness. It's like looking at the sun. So, if you get up in the morning and your eyes feel like that, make your helmet a little darker. That might help.

I hope that answers your question. See you next time.

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